Finding Tennis Opponent’s Weaknesses


If you ask folks at the local tennis club about a specific player that you’re planning to face in a match next week, they’ll usually start giving you passionate advice on how to beat him (or her). It all begins with them listing the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Finding weaknesses seems like an obvious strategy and something everyone should pay attention to. However, at the recreational level of tennis, players often just don’t have any clue about how to approach this. Sure, everyone would like to know what is the Achilles heel of their arch nemesis on the court.

Let see how you can find out...

Find weaknesses during warm-up

From now on, never, ever underestimate the importance of warm-up. Sure, stretching and warming up your body in preparation for a tennis match is crucial. However, try looking at it like this: warmup is the time when you get a chance to exchange first shots with your tennis partner on the other side of the net. That’s right. You get to test your opponent! Take this opportunity to learn more about your opponent’s game. What is he good at? Where does he fail? You can learn a lot about your opponent during those 15 minutes of warmup. Take mental notes of everything as you’ll need to figure out your strategy before the match starts.

Clues you should look for

During warm-up, try sending all kinds of different balls. Play to the forehand, and then send a shot to the backhand and see how the player reacts. A neat trick is to play a ball down the middle, just slightly to his backhand side. If he tries to run around the ball, to hit a forehand, then that’s a clear sign that he feels less confident hitting backhand. First weakness discovered.

You should be on the lookout for opponent’s preferences. For example, does he stay behind the baseline or likes to approach the net. Does he warm-up overheads and volleys? Usually, a player will just skip warming up shots he doesn’t feel confident hitting in general. In this case, he probably doesn’t feel right playing at the net. Send a wide, cross-court ball to stretch your opponent. Does he make the shot or hits into the net? See how your opponent handles topspin and slice shots. Hit a drop-shot to test his speed. How good is his serve? As you can see, sometimes you can win a match even before it starts if you play smart during warmup.

Your mission should be to test your opponent and discover the weaknesses and shots he doesn’t like hitting.

There is nothing worst then being forced to hit shots you're just not comfortable hitting. Be the one that dictates the game this way. Now to get good at analyzing opponents during warmup, you need to play against as many different players as possible. Sure, it’s easy to spot your friend’s weaknesses on the court if you played with him like a million times before. He probably even told you what bothers him on the court.

Play local tournaments and leagues. You can also use a partner finding app, such as Smash Tennis App, for your smartphone to meet new players and schedule matches. Set a goal to find at least one weakness for every new opponent you face and then try to incorporate that knowledge into your winning strategy on the court.

Changing Tennis Racquet Strings - When and Why?


The first time you step on the court is an unforgettable experience. You schedule a match with your friend at a local club and get rental gear. At the sign in desk, they hand you each a racquet and a pack of yellow fuzzy balls. Yay! You’re ready to play the most fantastic sport ever - tennis! When starting out, you usually play first few sessions with rental gear. Then you catch the tennis bug and decide to take it to the next level. You go to the tennis equipment store and purchase your first racquet. The racquet comes strung from the factory, and you never think about tennis strings again. At least for a while, until they break.

The truth is that recreational tennis players in most cases don't spend much time thinking about tennis strings. They take them for granted as a built-in racquet feature. When you’re new to the sport, you might not be aware that you can change them. All tennis clubs offer re-stringing service, and it takes about 20-30 minutes per racquet. The real question is, when do you need to change strings?

The unwritten rule

Typical answer you’ll hear everywhere is that if you play three times per week, you need to change strings at least three times per year. You’ll hear about this online, from tennis instructors, and fellow club players. Although it can’t be applied to all the players - it’s a good rule to start with. One variation, which is much better for you, would be to change strings at least three times per year, no matter how much you play (or don't play).

So, when to change strings?

The best advice: If you play tennis regularly, more than two times a week, then you should change strings every two months or sometimes even sooner. If you play more than four times per week, then change strings monthly. Advanced players that play club tournaments and leagues, break their strings much sooner than this. These players are used to changing strings bi-weekly as well as before every important match.

Reasons to change strings

Strings are the ones doing all the hard work. They provide you with vital feedback and feeling when hitting shots. Strings generate spin, power, and control. When you put on a new pair of strings, they are strung at a certain tension. From the moment they’re on, they start losing the original tension. Over time, strings just lose their performance attributes. As the tension drops and strings wear out, your control over shots decreases. The amount of power and spin that was originally there is gone. Simply, your whole tennis game and performance suffers. Most importantly, as strings die, you lose the all-important feeling. Shots gradually start to feel clunky, and you sense something is wrong. Like you’re hitting a ball with a frying pan instead of a tennis racquet. Worn out tennis strings can even cause tennis elbow injury in some cases.

As you can see, tennis strings play a vital role in your performance on the court. Change them regularly, as often as possible, to guarantee top racquet performance. Shake off the habit of waiting for strings to break in order to change them, as then would be too late. Your tennis game and body will thank you for it!

Dangers of Losing Focus When in the Lead


The warm-up is over, and the match is on. You’re amazed that everything you do is working out and you’re playing your best tennis ever. This performance puts you in the lead in no time with the score being 4:1. Alright, only two more games to go and you’ve won the set. So many recreational tennis players have been there, done that. That’s the time things so often turn for the worst. Not only do you end up losing the set, but the whole match is at risk now. Going from playing best tennis ever to losing an “already won” match is excruciatingly frustrating.

What happens when you’re winning

Usually associated with recreational and club level of tennis, the psychology of being in the lead can have disastrous effects on some players. Have you noticed that when you’re behind and chasing the score, more often than not you win those game or match-saving points? At the same time, you might be having trouble taking break points, holding serve and closing out the match when in the lead. These are classic signs that you’re losing focus when pressure eases off.

What happens is that you just stop fighting when you’re in the lead, and this can affect your game in a significant way. If there is no pressure and your opponent is making mistakes, you unconsciously start hitting shots with less pace, hoping for another unforced error from your opponent. Good news is that there is a relatively easy solution for this.

How to stay in the lead

You need to switch the mindset from playing the score to playing one point at a time. The score doesn’t matter. You need to give your best to try to win every point in a match. You can’t sacrifice any of the points for relaxing or taking a break. When your opponent gets in the zone, it’s hard to turn things around. Focus on keeping the ball inside the court, and if possible, don’t even think about the score. Of course, to do this, you need motivation.

Try setting goals like: “I’ll win this game without losing a point” or “This is my chance to win a breakpoint, I’ll focus and do my best to take it.”

You should always aim to win sets without losing any games, especially when playing against weaker players. Many recreational players tend to tank a game here and there when they are considered to be a stronger player, destined to win the match. It's a bad habit, as next time, you might face a player that is on the same level as you are skill wise, and then you can’t relax and afford to lose games without a fight.

Play one point at a time

To sum it up, focus on each point no matter what the score is. Play tennis one point at a time. Never give your opponent a boost when you’re in the lead as sometimes only a point or two can wake him up, and then it can be hard to stop the momentum. Tennis is a fantastic mind game, and there is so much you can do for your performance on the court just by changing how you think and approach matches. Next time you step on the court, try out some of the ideas we talked about, and you’ll surely win more matches, more confidently. 


US Open Men’s Preview, Predictions, Picks

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With the final grand slam of the year set to commence today, let’s take a look at the draw and make our predictions.

Quarter #1

This is Rafa’s quarter, but it may not be the Spaniard to come out of it unscathed. From the always dangerous Fognini to Berdych, Monfils, and Dimitrov, Rafa’s quarter is not exactly a cakewalk. Take into consideration the fact that he hasn’t had the best hard court swing in the last months, and the chances of him meeting Fed in the semis becomes increasingly unlikely.

As much as I want a Fedal, I don’t think Rafa has what it takes to make it there. Look for someone like Dimitrov to ride his good from into the US Open semifinals.

Prediction: Dimitrov def. Nadal

Quarter #2

This is Federer’s quarter, and it’s kind of strange to see the first and second seed in the same half of the draw. Fed fans certainly won’t be happy with Murray’s retirement following the draw as it means that Cilic will be left with a very easy draw that should have been Federer’s.

While we still don’t know if Federer has fully recovered, it seems like the Swiss has the chance at a 20th grand slam title. He’ll face the likes of Tiafoe and Lopez, and the most difficult challenge will come in the fourth round against Kyrgios (if the Australian can keep his head straight).

Thiem and Del Potro are waiting for him, but they shouldn’t have what it takes to dethrone the Swiss Maestro.

Prediction: Federer def. Del Potro

Quarter #3

The German youngster, Alexander Zverev, is in this corner, and it looks to be a favorable draw. Kevin Anderson, Jack Sock, and Sam Querrey all reside in this quarter, and each have their booming serve and/or groundstrokes, but Zverev has proved again and again that he is the real deal, winning two Masters titles this year.

It should definitely be a fun quarter to watch, one full of upsets and curiosity, and it could also decide the finalist. The fourth quarter boasts no one impressive other than Cilic and Tsonga, both who have their own problems right now, and Zverev is looking like the favorite to reach the final.

Prediction: Zverev def. Sock

Quarter #4

By far the easiest quarter of the draw, Cilic has replaced Murray after the Brit pulled out, and he’ll have an incredibly easy road to the semifinals. The only concern is whether or not his injury will affect his chances.

The quarter also boasts Tsonga, Pouille, and Ferrer; the first two haven’t had much success this year, but the latter has had some impressive performances in the latest hard court swing, and he could challenge for a spot in the semifinals.

This quarter is up for grabs, and it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top.

Prediction: Carreno Busta def. Pouille


Federer def. Dimitrov

Zverev def. Carreno Busta


Federer def. Zverev


Why Zverev is a Major Contender for the US Open

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There's Federer, then there's Nadal, and Zverev is a close third. It's the first time in a while that someone outside of the big 5 is one of the big favorites to take a grand slam. Sure, it may be because Djokovic and Wawrinka withdrew due to injury and Murray is coming back from a long recover from injury, but it's also because the German youngster has begun to prove his skill to the world.

After defeating Roger Federer in the finals of the Rogers Cup, Zverev claimed his second career Masters 1000 title. This is more than any current member of the #NextGen has earned and anyone besides the Big Four in fact, demonstrating that he is playing some of the best tennis for players his age and for anyone on the tour.

Roger Federer, who has publicly expressed back pain and discomfort, and Rafael Nadal, who hasn't found much success on hard court lately could both be problems for Zverev should they play some of their best tennis. Andy Murray, who has spent the last couple of months recovering from a hip injury, probably won't be as big of a problem for Zverev should they meet. These three don't seem to be as intimidating as they were previously in the year due to them struggling with individual problems.

The real problem for Zverev, who hasn't been able to prove that he can play quality tennis in grand slams, is going to be Zverev himself. In the past, Zverev has performed phenomenally in pre-grand slam tournaments, but ended up suffering early exits on the big stage. For example, after he won the Italian Open on clay earlier this year, Zverev went straight into the French Open and lost in the first round. If he is able to begin playing high-level tennis on the big stage, he will without a doubt be able to go deep into the tournament, if not take it all.

This is one of the biggest opportunities that a non-big 5 player has had to win a grand slam in recent history. Should he adapt to playing on the big stage and compete at a high level, Alexander Zverev could very well be the first member of the #NextGen to win a grand slam, ultimately proving that tennis no longer completely belongs to the big 5.

Will the German claim his first major title? Let's see!

The Rise of the Next Gen

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With Zverev’s two Masters wins and Dimitrov’s Cincy win, the tennis world has seen two brand new Masters champions, both of whom are younger than their Big Four counterparts.

Are we beginning to see the rise of the Next Gen? Zverev is by far the most promising member of the new generation, and he’s even a major contender for grand slams now. Kyrgios can beat anyone when his head is on right. Dimitrov has finally broken through. Shapovalov is an interesting addition, having beaten Nadal in Montreal.

We haven’t heard much from the Next Gen, but they’re starting to pop up now, getting better and better results with each tournament. While this is partly due to Murray and Djokovic’s fall, these results have to be appreciated. In an era that has been dominated by the Big Four for so long, were finally getting to see new players get important victories.

We could even see a new grand slam champion in the coming weeks. Rafa and Roger have some concerns and all the other top dogs are out, leading the way for a new player, especially a younger one, to hoist their first major trophy, signifying the fall of the Big Four and the passing of the torch in a sense.

This has been a long time coming. For years, the Big Four and Wawrinka have dominated the tour, Cilic and del Potro the only players being able to fight their way to a grand slam title. Zverev, Dimitrov, and Kyrgios are all contenders for the US Open, but their lack of experience could prove detrimental.

We are finally seeing the rise of the Next Gen, and it’s been a long time in the making. The entire Lost Gen as they are termed have come and gone, and it is now up to the younger players like Zverev to take their place. Will they be able to live up to their hype and dethrone those who have been at the top of the game for so long? We’ll have to wait and see.

Either way is good for fans. They’ll get to see their favorite legends continue to dominate or witness the passing of the torch. One will delay the inevitable and the other will shake things up a bit. Who knows what will happen? 

Dimitrov Claims Maiden Master Title In Cincy -- Recap

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For the first time since Andre Agassi was still on tour, the ATP has seen three Masters titles in a row won by someone who is not named Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, or Murray. After Zverev conquered Rome and Montreal, a player from the oft-titled 'Lost Generation' of the ATP has won his first 1000 - Grigor Dimitrov.

A tournament where Baby Fed's namesake has so often found success saw, for the first time in years, a set of semifinalists that consisted of no members of the top ten. On a semifinals day on which the ATP tour saw no breaks of serve, Kyrgios and Dimitrov were left standing as two men contesting for the biggest titles of their career. Building on his strong start to the season, which landed him a couple of titles and a 5-set high-wire semifinal defeat to Nadal in Melbourne, Dimitrov was finally able this Sunday to break out of his mid-summer funk to straight-set Kyrgios for the Cincinnati title.

For all the aesthetic appeal of his backhand and serve, and the way his form evokes that of Federer, Dimitrov found a path to the title by playing very much like another member of the Big Four - Andy Murray. Employing his impressive athleticism to defend numerous Kyrgios forehands, Dimitrov found himself unable to miss. Exercising a simple tactic effectively - keeping the ball low to Nick's shovel-like backhand - the newly crowned Masters champion was able to side-step a flurry of double faults and overcome a barrage of huge second-serves to win by a break in each set.

Kyrgios, to his credit, did not contest poorly. Aggressive on the forehand side, and generally sharp on serve, he was undone by an inability to dig out shots on his backhand wing and an unwillingness to come forward to end points. However, for a player struggling with a hip injury as recently as a week ago, losing in both tournaments to the eventual champion is no small achievement - especially when a win aside from those consists of routing the new world number one.

Ahead of the US Open, Cincinnati has raised a multitude of questions about what might be the most open slam in recent history. Will Zverev, who followed up his back-to-back Masters' success with a first-round exit, have the fitness to contend in best-of-five? Will Kyrgios be able to overcome his hip to be a factor into the Open's second week? How will Dimitrov respond to his career-best year, and how will Nadal handle his return to the top spot - achieved with no non-clay titles to his name? All this and more remains to be seen, along with the state of Federer's back, the race for year-end number one, and Shapovalov's playing the qualifying.

In a few weeks, the tennis world might finally see the surge of a new generation, or we might get to witness a Fedal under the lights on Arthur Ashe. What is a certainty, however, is that Montreal and Cincinnati have been two of the most thrilling Masters 1000s in recent memory - and everything that's happened over the last couple of weeks should have tennis fans unquestionably excited.

Rafael Nadal’s Ascent to Number One

Let’s dial the clocks back by around a year. Federer had announced that he was taking the rest of the 2016 season off to rehabilitate his knee. Soon after, Nadal followed after his second-round loss in Shanghai to Victor Troicki.

Most people had expected a continued dominance of Djokovic and Murray, more preferring Murray due to his brilliant 2016 season. However, what followed was a 180o flip, with Nadal and Federer dominating, winning all three of the grand slams played so far and four Masters 1000 titles. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year, and with Federer withdrawing from Cincinnati because of the back injury he suffered and Murray having already withdrawn from Cincinnati, Nadal is now guaranteed to become the World Number 1 on the 21st of August. Fantastic news!

Nadal has had a fantastic year. 2015 saw him struggle with confidence and his 2016 season was hampered due to injury. However, he has remained injury free this year. He’s motivated, confident and his game has seen subtle changes and improvements. His serve in Wimbledon was precise and lethal. His backhand is very solid. His volleying skills have seen improvement in placement. His forehand can be deeper, and that’s something he still needs to work on. But despite the small shortcomings, he has clinched the number one spot again for the first time in three years.

His dominance this clay season was a joy to watch and probably quite frightening for his opponents. He swept the entire clay season except for Rome where he lost to Thiem in the quarter finals. He won his 10th French Open. He reached the Australian Open final. 4 titles in 7 finals. Some great results, especially considering the drastically low expectations at the beginning of the year.

He had a comparatively good showing at Wimbledon as well. He lost in the fourth round in a gritty five-setter to Gilles Muller from Luxembourg. Muller is enjoying the best season of his life, and with him fine-tuning his already great serve and net skills, it was great to watch him win the match, though that meant Nadal once again had an early exit in Wimbledon.

This is where we bring our most important point. Nadal has been playing great; there’s no denying that. He’s in fine form. But like many of his previous season exploits, the Spaniard is losing to players most people have never heard of. He started the season with a bang, improved on it and swept the clay court season but then he started losing matches: he lost in Wimbledon to Muller and to Shapovalov in Montreal and now to Kyrgios in Cincinnati.

And while they’re not bad players by any means, these are players that Nadal would rip apart in the start of the season, when he is fresh. Which brings up another point: Should Nadal have a more relaxed calendar? Federer did that this entire season and won two grand slams.

Nadal’s game is extremely physical, and while he may have the fire and passion to want to play many events, he must realize that he’s becoming older. This is precisely why he’s never held on to the number one ranking for too long or won the tour finals. He’s gassed by the end of the year because he focuses more on the clay court season.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but he must realize that if he wants to hold onto that #1 ranking, he needs to make some tactical decisions regarding which events he plays and how much of his calendar he keeps full. Because keeping the body rested and fully ready to take the brunt of the season is something Nadal hasn’t yet figured out.

But until then, let’s enjoy some #1 Nadal madness.

Rafael Nadal - UNBELIVABLE

Western and Southern Open: QFs, SFs, Final Preview

The quarterfinals of the Cincinnati Open are almost underway, although two are yet to be determined due to rain delays. Let’s get straight into our predictions.

QF #1: YTD

After Nadal v Ramos-Vinolas was cancelled and Kyrgios v Karlovic was delayed at 3-4 in the first set, the matches have been moved to Friday, meaning that the winners will have to play twice in one day. Nadal should get past his fellow Spaniard, but he may have more trouble in the quarters, having to play a big server. 

Give me Kyrgios and Nadal in the quarters with the Aussie taking it in three tight sets.

Pick: Kyrgios in 3

QF #2: Thiem vs Ferrer

Dominic Thiem has had a great year so far, and the youngster is one of the leaders behind Rafa and Roger in the Race to London. Ferrer, on the other hand, is a veteran. The Spaniard hasn’t had the best year, but he’s performed well lately, taking Federer to three sets in Montreal.

Give me Thiem in straight sets. The veteran won’t be able to handle a younger opponent and his booming groundstrokes.

Pick: Thiem in 2

QF #3: Isner vs Donaldson

Perhaps the weirdest quarterfinal of them all, Isner and Donaldson will face each other for a spot in the semis. While Isner may not be that much of a surprise with his booking serve, Donaldson is. At just 21 years of age, the American was handled a wildcard, beating Bautista Agut and Basilashvili to get here.

The youngster may get a set, but Isner’s serve will overpower him, albeit in close sets and possibly tiebreakers.

Pick: Isner in 3

QF #4: Dimitrov vs. Sugita

Another surprising matchup, Baby Fed will take on the second ranked Japanese player in the world in Sugita. The Japanese player is ranked 46th in the world, and this will mark his first Masters 1000 quarterfinal. He has notched some impressive wins, including an upset against in-form Jack Sock. Dimitrov wasn’t any less impressive, defeating Lopez and del Potro en route to the quarterfinals.

Baby Fed may not have lived up to his moniker, but he’ll take this one against a less experienced player.

Pick: Dimitrov in 2

SF Picks

Kyrgios def. Thiem

Dimitrov def. Isner


Kyrgios def. Dimitrov

The Perks Of Playing Tennis With New Rivals

If you love to play tennis, you probably rely on a small group of people that also play —  friends from a tennis club, neighbours, colleagues from work or college friends.

It’s good to know people who share your love for the sport, but depending on a small group of friends to play a match can be frustrating.  A recent study conducted by Smash Tennis, an app for tennis players, with over 50 players in Miami, New York, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo shows that recreational tennis players have on average only 7 frequent opponents. This means that an amateur player is usually limited to 7 adversaries (and their availability).

And what’s the outcome of constantly playing against the same people? According to tennis specialists, this may slow down your progress and improvement. If you know your opponent too well, the game will become predictable, repetitive, and will lack stimulus. Your matches will be similar with little game variation. Also, you will not evolve your psychological game and your motivation will be affected.

It’s true we love to play with people we know and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s nice to chat with a friend before and after a game. Meeting new people is not easy at first and playing against someone we don’t know may feel sometimes awkward or embarrassing. However, it’s worth a try. Here’s why:

1. You will need to quickly learn about your new opponent during the game and you’ll become a more dynamic and versatile player in doing so.
2. You’ll be able to use your favorite moves efficiently. Remember, your new partner is also learning about you and your old tricks will work this time!
3. It will be a new challenge and this will increase your interest and motivation.
4. Learning about your opponent’s mental game is very stimulating.

To meet new opponents at your playing level, there are a couple of innovative apps like Smash Tennis (free on iOS and Android). With Smash Tennis,  it’s easy to search for players in your area and filter by age, level, and gender. You can also see your friends’ profile and their past opponents.

Another way to connect with new players is to ask around your community — tennis clubs, friends, tennis instructors — for an introduction.

The important thing to keep in mind is that by playing against new players, your game will evolve quickly, regardless if you win or lose a match!